Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

by Lambeth Hochwald

It’s been hammered into our heads to brush twice a day, floss once (though that’s up for debate) and maybe rinse with a fluoride mouthwash. But recently, another chore has been suggested as an addition to our dental routine: tongue scraping. But is this ayurvedic practice that dates back to ancient India really worth your while?

We went to two experts to find out if you should start your day scraping your tongue.

Dental hygienist Sam Williamson, owner of Teeth Whitening Belfast in Ireland, recommends the practice to all of his patients.

“Most of my clients don’t realize the effectiveness of tongue scraping until they actually do it and see all the gunk that comes off their tongue,” he says. “The tongue is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, but although we take care of our teeth and our gums regularly, we don’t pay nearly as much attention to our tongue.”

The bacteria on your tongue is one of the main causes of bad breath, so scraping it regularly can significantly improve your breath over time. In fact, a recent study showed about 85 percent of all bad breath cases begin in the mouth and half are caused by bacteria residue on the tongue. Brushing your tongue is “the best way to ensure that your breath stays fresh throughout the day,” Williamson says.

Kimberly Harms, DDS, a dentist in Farmington, Minnesota, and a spokesperson for the American Dental Association, says “your taste buds in the back are made for bacteria to hide.” And when your mouth has a lot of bacteria in it, you can taste it. “That sour taste is often due to bacteria,” she says.

If you often suffer from dry mouth, this quick health routine can help that, too. “If you’re not producing enough saliva when you chew, you my have digestive issues,” Williamson says. “Scraping can help.”

How to do it

“A scraper is an efficient way to remove all that’s coating your tongue,” Harms says. Here are four things to keep in mind as you scrape:

1. Buy a dedicated tongue scraper (they cost as little as $6) that comes in plastic or metal and is usually shaped like the letter U.

2. Always be gentle — scraping your tongue should never hurt.

3. Scrape only five to 10 times, Harms suggests.

4. Don’t go too deep. “Since we have a gag reflex, be sure not to put the scraper too far back in your mouth,” she adds.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” Harms says. “We don’t like to praise things without research but tongue scraping makes sense. If you’re successful at brushing twice a day and flossing daily, great. Do that first. Consider tongue scraping a great adjunct to good oral hygiene.”

http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/stories/what-you-need-know-about-tongue-scraping

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Coffee lovers may live longer than those who don’t imbibe — with lower risks of early death from heart disease and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, a large U.S. study finds.

Researchers said the study, published online Nov. 16 in Circulation, adds to a large body of evidence on the good side of coffee.

People often think of coffee-drinking as a bad habit that they need to break, said study leader Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

But, Hu said, many studies have linked moderate coffee intake to lower risks of developing various diseases — from heart disease and diabetes, to liver cancer, to neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.

His team’s study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, adds another layer of evidence. It found that coffee drinkers were not only less likely to develop certain diseases — they also tended to live longer.

Over 30 years, nonsmokers who drank three to five cups of coffee a day were 15 percent less likely to die of any cause, versus nondrinkers. Specifically, they had lower rates of death from heart disease, stroke, neurological conditions and suicide.

Both regular coffee and decaf were linked to longer survival, the study found.

None of that proves coffee, itself, extends people’s lives or directly protects against certain diseases, Hu said. Other factors might explain the connection.

But, Hu added, his team did account for many of those factors. And the coffee benefit remained.

The findings are based on more than 200,000 U.S. doctors, nurses and other health professionals who were surveyed repeatedly over almost three decades. During that time, almost 32,000 study participants died.

It turned out that people who drank one to five cups of coffee at the outset had lower odds of dying during the study period when other lifestyle habits and certain health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, were taken into account.

The relationship grew stronger when the researchers looked only at nonsmokers: Those who drank three to five cups of coffee a day were 15 percent less likely to die during the study period, compared with adults who didn’t drink coffee. Lower risks were even seen among the heaviest coffee drinkers (more than five cups a day), who had a 12 percent lower death risk than nondrinkers.

“The body of evidence does suggest coffee can fit into a healthy lifestyle,” Hu said.

That evidence, Hu noted, has already been incorporated into the latest U.S. dietary guidelines, which say that a healthy diet can include up to three to five cups of coffee a day.

But overall lifestyle is key, Hu said. That is, there’s a difference between a person who gets little sleep, then uses coffee to function during the day, and a person who sleeps well, exercises, and eats a balanced diet that includes some coffee.

Alice Lichtenstein, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, agreed.

“This doesn’t mean you should start drinking coffee in the hopes of getting health benefits,” said Lichtenstein, who is also a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University in Boston.

But, she added, the new findings build on years of evidence that coffee is not the bad guy many believe it is. “There’s this lingering idea that coffee must be bad for you because it’s enjoyable,” Lichtenstein said. “It’s almost like we’ve been trying to find something wrong with it.”

There are caveats, though. “You do need to be careful about what you’re putting in your coffee,” Lichtenstein pointed out. Some milk is fine, she said, but watch the sugar and heavy cream.

And why would coffee be related to health benefits? It’s not clear from this study, Hu said, but other research has suggested that compounds in coffee can reduce inflammation, act as antioxidants, and improve blood sugar regulation, among other things.

Also, when it comes to some neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, Hu said, there’s evidence that caffeine offers benefits.

SOURCES: Frank Hu, M.D., Ph.D., professor, nutrition and epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston; Alice Lichtenstein, D.Sc., professor, nutrition science and policy, Tufts University, Boston; Nov. 16, 2015, Circulation, online

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/health/HealthDay705311_20151116_Coffee_Drinkers_May_Live_Longer.html#rPogcDb2tVXwEFwz.99

In 1946, a new advertising campaign appeared in magazines with a picture of a doctor in a lab coat holding a cigarette and the slogan, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.” No, this wasn’t a spoof. Back then, doctors were not aware that smoking could cause cancer, heart disease and lung disease.

In a similar vein, some researchers and consumers are now asking whether wearable computers will be considered harmful in several decades’ time.

We have long suspected that cellphones, which give off low levels of radiation, could lead to brain tumors, cancer, disturbed blood rhythms and other health problems if held too close to the body for extended periods.

Yet here we are in 2015, with companies like Apple and Samsung encouraging us to buy gadgets that we should attach to our bodies all day long.

While there is no definitive research on the health effects of wearable computers (the Apple Watch isn’t even on store shelves yet), we can hypothesize a bit from existing research on cellphone radiation.

The most definitive and arguably unbiased results in this area come from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a panel within the World Health Organization that consisted of 31 scientists from 14 countries.

After dissecting dozens of peer-reviewed studies on cellphone safety, the panel concluded in 2011 that cellphones were “possibly carcinogenic” and that the devices could be as harmful as certain dry-cleaning chemicals and pesticides. (Note that the group hedged its findings with the word “possibly.”)

The W.H.O. panel concluded that the farther away a device is from one’s head, the less harmful — so texting or surfing the Web will not be as dangerous as making calls, with a cellphone inches from the brain. (This is why there were serious concerns about Google Glass when it was first announced and why we’ve been told to use hands-free devices when talking on cellphones.)

A longitudinal study conducted by a group of European researchers and led by Dr. Lennart Hardell, a professor of oncology and cancer epidemiology at Orebro University Hospital in Sweden, concluded that talking on a mobile or cordless phone for extended periods could triple the risk of a certain kind of brain cancer.

There is, of course, antithetical research. But some of this was partly funded by cellphone companies or trade groups.

One example is the international Interphone study, which was published in 2010 and did not find strong links between mobile phones and an increased risk of brain tumors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded in 2014 that “more research is needed before we know if using cell phones causes health effects.”

Continue reading the main story
Another study, in The BMJ, which measured cellphone subscription data rather than actual use, said there was no proof of increased cancer. Yet even here, the Danish team behind the report acknowledged that a “small to moderate increase” in cancer risk among heavy cellphone users could not be ruled out.

But what does all this research tell the Apple faithful who want to rush out and buy an Apple Watch, or the Google and Windows fanatics who are eager to own an alternative smartwatch?

Dr. Joseph Mercola, a physician who focuses on alternative medicine and has written extensively about the potential harmful effects of cellphones on the human body, said that as long as a wearable does not have a 3G connection built into it, the harmful effects are minimal, if any.

“The radiation really comes from the 3G connection on a cellphone, so devices like the Jawbone Up and Apple Watch should be O.K.,” Dr. Mercola said in a phone interview. “But if you’re buying a watch with a cellular chip built in, then you’ve got a cellphone attached to your wrist.” And that, he said, is a bad idea.

(The Apple Watch uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to receive data, and researchers say there is no proven harm from those frequencies on the human body. Wearables with 3G or 4G connections built in, including the Samsung Gear S, could be more harmful, though that has not been proved. Apple declined to comment for this article, and Samsung could not be reached for comment.)

Researchers have also raised concerns about having powerful batteries so close to the body for extended periods of time. Some reports over the last several decades have questioned whether being too close to power lines could cause leukemia (though other research has also negated this).

So what should consumers do? Perhaps we can look at how researchers themselves handle their smartphones.

While Dr. Mercola is a vocal proponent of cellphone safety, he told me to call him on his cell when I emailed about an interview. When I asked him whether he was being hypocritical, he replied that technology is a fact of life, and that he uses it with caution. As an example, he said he was using a Bluetooth headset during our call.

In the same respect, people who are concerned about the possible side effects of a smartwatch should avoid placing it close to their brain (besides, it looks a little strange). But there are some people who may be more vulnerable to the dangers of these devices: children.

While researchers debate about how harmful cellphones and wearable computers actually are, most agree that children should exercise caution.

Continue reading the main story
In an email, Dr. Hardell sent me research illustrating that a child’s skull is thinner and smaller than an adult’s, which means that children’s brain tissues are more exposed to certain types of radiation, specifically the kind that emanates from a cellphone.

Children should limit how much time they spend talking on a cellphone, doctors say. And if they have a wearable device, they should take it off at night so it does not end up under their pillow, near their brain. Doctors also warn that women who are pregnant should be extra careful with all of these technologies.

But what about adults? After researching this column, talking to experts and poring over dozens of scientific papers, I have realized the dangers of cellphones when used for extended periods, and as a result I have stopped holding my phone next to my head and instead use a headset.

That being said, when it comes to wearable computers, I’ll still buy the Apple Watch, but I won’t let it go anywhere near my head. And I definitely won’t let any children I know play with it for extended periods of time.While researchers debate about how harmful cellphones and wearable computers actually are, most agree that children should exercise caution.

In an email, Dr. Hardell sent me research illustrating that a child’s skull is thinner and smaller than an adult’s, which means that children’s brain tissues are more exposed to certain types of radiation, specifically the kind that emanates from a cellphone.

Children should limit how much time they spend talking on a cellphone, doctors say. And if they have a wearable device, they should take it off at night so it does not end up under their pillow, near their brain. Doctors also warn that women who are pregnant should be extra careful with all of these technologies.

But what about adults? After researching this column, talking to experts and poring over dozens of scientific papers, I have realized the dangers of cellphones when used for extended periods, and as a result I have stopped holding my phone next to my head and instead use a headset.

That being said, when it comes to wearable computers, I’ll still buy the Apple Watch, but I won’t let it go anywhere near my head. And I definitely won’t let any children I know play with it for extended periods of time.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/19/style/could-wearable-computers-be-as-harmful-as-cigarettes.html?_r=0

There’s been a fast growing body of evidence in the last several years that lack of exercise – or sedentariness – is a major risk factor in health. It’s been linked to heart disease, cancer, and to an early death. And now, a new study finds that lack of exercise may actually be even more of a risk than obesity in early mortality: The researchers calculate that a sedentary lifestyle may actually confer twice the risk of death as being obese. That said, the two are both important and, luckily, closely related: So if you start getting active, you’ll probably lose a little weight along the way, which itself is a very good thing.

The new study looked at data from over 334,000 people who participated in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) Study. Over a period of 12 years, the participants’ height, weight, and waist circumferences were tracked, along with self-reports of activity levels, both at work and in free time. All-cause mortality (i.e., death from any cause) was the main outcome of interest.

It turned out that lack of physical activity was linked to the greatest risk of death – and the greatest reduction in death risk was in the difference between the lowest two activity groups. In other words, just moving from “inactive” to “moderately inactive” showed the largest reduction in death risk, especially for normal weight people, but true for people of all body weights. And, the authors say, just taking a brisk 20-minute walk per day can move you from one category to the other, and reduce the risk of death anywhere from 16% to 30%.

Using a statistical model, the team also calculated that being sedentary may account for double the death risk of obesity. According to their math, of the 9.2 million deaths in Europe in 2008, about 337,000 were attributable to obesity, whereas 676,000 were attributable to sedentariness.

Another takeaway from the study, however, is that waist circumference is a bigger player in mortality risk than overall body weight, which has certainly been suggested by previous studies. Belly fat seems to be disproportionately linked to chronic health issues like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and of course, early mortality. So reducing belly fat is always a significant benefit to one’s health.

“This large study is rather complex in its details, but the take-away messages are actually both clear and simple,” says David L, Katz, Director of the Yale University Prevention Research CenterGriffin Hospital. “At any given body weight, going from inactive to active can reduce the risk of premature mortality substantially. At any given level of activity, going from overweight to a more optimal weight can do the same. We have long known that not all forms of obesity are equally hazardous, and this study reaffirms that. Losing weight if you have an excess around the middle, where it is most dangerous, exerts an influence on mortality comparable to physical activity. Losing excess weight that is not associated with a high waist circumference reduces mortality risk, but less — as we would expect.”

But perhaps the main point in all of this is that being active and being a healthy weight are inextricably linked. Though activity by itself can offer an immediate health benefit if you remain overweight, getting active also leads naturally to loss of body weight. “This study reminds that being both fit and unfat are good for health,” says Katz, “and can add both life to years, and years to life. These are not really disparate challenges, since the physical activity that leads to fitness is on the short list of priorities for avoiding fatness as well. The challenge before us now is for our culture to make it easier to get there from here.”

Earlier this month a study showed that the concept of “healthy obesity” may be very misleading, since health markers in an obese person tend to deteriorate over time. Though the current study suggests that fitness may matter more than fatness, the two are really two sides of a coin: It would be silly to become active and not lose weight — and it would be very hard to do, since the one leads to the other. But perhaps given the great benefits of exercise alone, public health campaigns should focus not just on losing weight, but on encouraging people to add just small amounts physical activity to their lives right off the bat, and to see where it goes from there.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/01/15/is-lack-of-exercise-worse-for-your-health-than-obesity/

The biotech company NewLink Genetics in Ames, Iowa is closing in on human trials for an Ebola vaccine.

“From the laboratory to moving these first human trials has moved faster than I’ve ever seen anything move before in my professional career,” said Charles Link, CEO of NewLink Genetics.

Link said they are just a few days away from human testing. During Phase 1 of testing, healthy volunteers will be given the vaccine. Researchers will test to see how safe the vaccine is and what dosage is necessary for an immune reaction.

“With a dangerous virus, you don’t ever use the dangerous virus. You basically use a little snippet of it,” said Link.

Link said that snippet is a surface protein you get from Ebola and assures us there is no Ebola is in the vaccine.

“If you get an immune reaction to the surface protein an then it sees the real Ebola, it will attack it,” said Link.

Once those tests are complete, the company will move into Phase 2 where tests focus on how effective and useful the vaccine is. Those tests will be done in West Africa.

Link said he’s hoping it’ll take less than a year, but there’s no real way of telling when the vaccine will be ready for distribution until test results start coming in.

“We want to shorten the process as much as humanely possible within the bounds of safety and the ethics that’s required to conduct these sorts of studies in healthy volunteers,” said Link.

The Phase 1 of the tests will be conducted at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Ames Company Close to Ebola Vaccine Trials

http://www.cbs2iowa.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/ames-company-close-ebola-vaccine-trials-30679.shtml

If you are aiming to lose weight by revving up your exercise routine, it may be wise to think of your workouts not as exercise, but as playtime. An unconventional new study suggests that people’s attitudes toward physical activity can influence what they eat afterward and, ultimately, whether they drop pounds.

For some time, scientists have been puzzled — and exercisers frustrated — by the general ineffectiveness of exercise as a weight-loss strategy. According to multiple studies and anecdotes, most people who start exercising do not lose as much weight as would be expected, given their increased energy expenditure. Some people add pounds despite burning hundreds of calories during workouts.

Past studies of this phenomenon have found that exercise can increase the body’s production of appetite hormones, making some people feel ravenous after even a light workout and prone to consume more calories than they expended. But that finding, while intriguing, doesn’t fully explain the wide variability in people’s post-exercise eating habits.

So, for the new study, published in the journal Marketing Letters, French and American researchers turned to psychology and the possible effect that calling exercise by any other name might have on people’s subsequent diets.

In that pursuit, the researchers first recruited 56 healthy, adult women, the majority of them overweight. The women were given maps detailing the same one-mile outdoor course and told that they would spend the next half-hour walking there, with lunch to follow.

Half of the women were told that their walk was meant to be exercise, and they were encouraged to view it as such, monitoring their exertion throughout. The other women were told that their 30-minute outing would be a walk purely for pleasure; they would be listening to music through headphones and rating the sound quality, but mostly the researchers wanted them to enjoy themselves.

When the women returned from walking, the researchers asked each to estimate her mileage, mood and calorie expenditure.

Those women who’d been formally exercising reported feeling more fatigued and grumpy than the other women, although the two groups’ estimates of mileage and calories burned were almost identical. More telling, when the women sat down to a pasta lunch, with water or sugary soda to drink, and applesauce or chocolate pudding for dessert, the women in the exercise group loaded up on the soda and pudding, consuming significantly more calories from these sweets than the women who’d thought that they were walking for pleasure.

A follow-up experiment by the researchers, published as part of the same study, reinforces and broadens those findings. For it, the researchers directed a new set of volunteers, some of them men, to walk the same one-mile loop. Once again, half were told to consider this session as exercise. The others were told that they would be sightseeing and should have fun. The two groups covered the same average distance. But afterward, allowed to fill a plastic bag at will with M&M’s as a thank-you, the volunteers from the exercise group poured in twice as much candy as the other walkers.

Finally, to examine whether real-world exercisers behave similarly to those in the contrived experiments, the researchers visited the finish line of a marathon relay race, where 231 entrants aged 16 to 67 had just completed laps of five to 10 kilometers. They asked the runners whether they had enjoyed their race experience and offered them the choice of a gooey chocolate bar or healthier cereal bar in consideration of their time and help. In general, those runners who said that their race had been difficult or unsatisfying picked the chocolate; those who said that they had fun gravitated toward the healthier choice.

In aggregate, these three experiments underscore that how we frame physical activity affects how we eat afterward, said Carolina O.C. Werle, an associate professor of marketing at the Grenoble School of Management in France, who led the study. The same exertion, spun as “fun” instead of “exercise,” prompts less gorging on high-calorie foods, she said.

Just how, physiologically, our feelings about physical activity influence our food intake is not yet known, she said, and likely to be bogglingly complex, involving hormones, genetics, and the neurological circuitry of appetite and reward processing. But in the simplest terms, Dr. Werle said, this new data shows that most of us require recompense of some kind for working out. That reward can take the form of subjective enjoyment. If exercise is fun, no additional gratification is needed. If not, there’s chocolate pudding.

The good news is that our attitudes toward exercise are malleable. “We can frame our workouts in different ways,” Dr. Werle said, “by focusing on whatever we consider fun about it, such as listening to our favorite music or chatting with a friend” during a group walk.

“The more fun we have,” she concluded, “the less we’ll feel the need to compensate for the effort” with food.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/04/losing-weight-may-require-some-serious-fun/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

A person’s entire immune system can be rejuvenated by fasting for as little as three days as it triggers the body to start producing new white blood cells, a study suggests.

By Sarah Knapton

Fasting for as little as three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as “remarkable”.

Although fasting diets have been criticised by nutritionists for being unhealthy, new research suggests starving the body kick-starts stem cells into producing new white blood cells, which fight off infection.

Scientists at the University of Southern California say the discovery could be particularly beneficial for people suffering from damaged immune systems, such as cancer patients on chemotherapy.

It could also help the elderly whose immune system becomes less effective as they age, making it harder for them to fight off even common diseases.

The researchers say fasting “flips a regenerative switch” which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system.

“It gives the ‘OK’ for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system,” said Prof Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of California.

“And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting.

“Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or ageing, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system.”

Prolonged fasting forces the body to use stores of glucose and fat but also breaks down a significant portion of white blood cells.

During each cycle of fasting, this depletion of white blood cells induces changes that trigger stem cell-based regeneration of new immune system cells.

In trials humans were asked to regularly fast for between two and four days over a six-month period.

Scientists found that prolonged fasting also reduced the enzyme PKA, which is linked to ageing and a hormone which increases cancer risk and tumour growth.

“We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system,” added Prof Longo.

“When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged,” Dr Longo said.

“What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. So we started thinking, well, where does it come from?”

Fasting for 72 hours also protected cancer patients against the toxic impact of chemotherapy.

“While chemotherapy saves lives, it causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy,” said co-author Tanya Dorff, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital.

“More clinical studies are needed, and any such dietary intervention should be undertaken only under the guidance of a physician.”

“We are investigating the possibility that these effects are applicable to many different systems and organs, not just the immune system,” added Prof Longo.

However, some British experts were sceptical of the research.

Dr Graham Rook, emeritus professor of immunology at University College London, said the study sounded “improbable”.

Chris Mason, Professor of Regenerative Medicine at UCL, said: “There is some interesting data here. It sees that fasting reduces the number and size of cells and then re-feeding at 72 hours saw a rebound.

“That could be potentially useful because that is not such a long time that it would be terribly harmful to someone with cancer.

“But I think the most sensible way forward would be to synthesize this effect with drugs. I am not sure fasting is the best idea. People are better eating on a regular basis.”

Dr Longo added: “There is no evidence at all that fasting would be dangerous while there is strong evidence that it is beneficial.

“I have received emails from hundreds of cancer patients who have combined chemo with fasting, many with the assistance of the oncologists.

“Thus far the great majority have reported doing very well and only a few have reported some side effects including fainting and a temporary increase in liver markers. Clearly we need to finish the clinical trials, but it looks very promising.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10878625/Fasting-for-three-days-can-regenerate-entire-immune-system-study-finds.html